It’s official: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 will close on September 3.
The musical, based on a 70-page selection from Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace, first opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater last year, and received critical acclaim for its innovative set design, dazzling lighting, lush score, and, of course, its accordion-wielding leading man, Josh Groban.
The Great Comet most recently received a lot attention—and not the good kind it deserved—for a befuddling casting controversy that had social media sent into a tailspin. Here’s a quick refresher:
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 Casting Controversy
When Josh Groban bowed out of his role as the “dear, bewildered, and awkward” Pierre on July 2, Hamilton alum Okieriete Onaodowan, or “Oak,” was brought in to take his place. It seemed, for a short while, that the show would manage to survive without the glow of Groban’s name on the marquee. Then something strange happened: about two weeks into Onaodowan’s stint, the producers announced that his run would be cut short, to “make room” for stage veteran Mandy Patinkin.
This announcement was almost immediately met with backlash, even inspiring the hashtag “#MakeRoomForOak” across social media platforms, with users calling the decision racist, disrespectful, inconsiderate, mishandled, confusing, and unfortunate.
Patinkin responded to the uproar by stepping away from the show completely, leaving fans to wonder what would be next for poor Pierre, “our merry feasting crank,” and for the show itself.
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 Will Close On September 3
Apparently The Great Comet just couldn’t bounce back from the controversy, with social media outrage casting a dark cloud over the show, causing ticket sales, no doubt, to dwindle.
Onaodowan will end his run on August 13, passing the Pierre baton to understudy Scott Stangland, who will play the role August 15-20. Creator Dave Malloy, who played Pierre during the show’s original Off-Broadway run from 2012-2013, will see the show out for its final performances August 22-September 3.
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 Deserved Better
Anyone following this messy drama over the past couple of weeks probably could have seen this news coming from a mile away, but it’s still incredibly disappointing.
As someone who was fortunate enough to see the show, I can easily say that Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 never truly got the love it deserved. While it received the most Tony nominations of any other musical this past season, it only won two for lighting and scenic design—which was great, but just not enough.
I would argue that The Great Comet is just as innovative as Hamilton—I know, I know, blasphemy, right? But the two musicals, while certainly different, share many similarities, from their incredibly diverse casting to their genre-bending scores. Not to mention, on paper, both sound super boring, let’s be honest. Founding father Alexander Hamilton’s rise to fame, a snippet of Tolstoy’s War and Peace—neither of these should work as a musical, but they do. And I think, once some time has passed and the dust has settled, I will brag about seeing the original Broadway production of The Great Comet, the most immersive theater experience the Great White Way has ever offered, just as much as seeing Hamilton. There! I said it!
So, yes, to say it’s a shame how it all ended would be an understatement for a show that deserved so much more.
To end on a positive note, let’s look back to happier times. As the rascally Anatole, in all his violin-playing, green coat-swirling glory, would say, “Goodbye, my gypsy lovers, all my revels here are over.”